Playgrounds open or closed? We try to sort out the confusion

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At Quincy Park in Blaine, it’s the wind blowing through a section of caution tape, not the laughter of children that you’ll hear on the playground.

That yellow tape is making it clear this play area is closed.

“They should stay away from things everybody's going to be touching,” said 11-year old Sophia Pappas.

On Thursday afternoon, Sophia was enjoying an outing on wheels with her dad, Josh Thorngren. She agrees the playground should be closed amid concerns about COVID-19.

“It’s just not safe because it’s going to spread even more, and everyone’s playing at the parks,” Sophia said.  

Gov. Tim Walz’s "stay at home" order says Minnesotans may use public parks. But his website gets more specific.  

"Going to the playground is allowed under the ‘stay at home’ order,” it reads. “Although the governor’s order doesn’t close playgrounds, they may be closed by local authorities.”

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It really depends on where you go.  

“There’s definitely a lot of confusion,” Thorngren said. “Some people are saying it’s not a big deal, but it’s pretty clear it’s important to me.”

In Edina, we found a playground surrounded by a plastic fence.

Bloomington and Cologne have playgrounds open; the choice to use them is up to parents.

Then there’s Orono Park in Elk River, where Dan Bonham was out with his son Michael, playing with the youngster’s new bike. Nearby, a sign cites the governor’s ‘stay at home’ order in closing the park — keeping in mind, that decision is left to local officials.

“We live in the apartments right over there, but we didn’t see the sign, unfortunately,” Bonham said.

There was no caution tape or fence around the playground, so the father and son, unknowingly, were about to use it.

“If they were to rope it off, that would be very obvious. But it's wide open,” Bonham said. “That being said, we’re here right now, but I think it’s necessary. It’s good we’re at the stage of being proactive instead of reactive to all of this.”

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Elk River Mayor John Dietz said the person in charge of parks may have misinterpreted the governor’s order, giving local governments the power to close playgrounds if it’s deemed necessary.

Dietz said he’ll look into the matter and will also consider other safety measures — perhaps more visible signs or caution tape. He said the most important thing is that children are safe.

Thorngren agrees that safety measures should be in place.

“The kids are the most susceptible. Running around, they don’t understand how serious it is,” he said. “It’s not going to really work if they’re not doing it everywhere.”